Now, when most people think of Los Angeles, they think of Hollywood or the Pacific Ocean. Los Angeles has so many other outdoor activities to offer, hiking being one of them. Take a peek below at 10 Unique Toddler-Friendly Hikes in & near Los Angeles:
10 Unique Toddler-Friendly Hikes in & near Los Angeles:
"JUST A STROLL" HIKES: these hikes are easy to navigate & complete, not for “breaking a sweat”
- Garden of the Gods at Stoney Point Park (0.4 miles) – located in Chatsworth, CA, this trail is small part of the historic Iverson Movie Ranch. This 23-acre park was featured in many old western movies between 1912-until the late 1960’s. A site known as the “most shot up location in movie history”.
Garden of the Gods is an easy 0.4 mile, lightly trafficked loop trail that weaves between large rock formations. This trail is more for exploration than hiking, but a great spot for beginning boulderers to scramble and climb (no gear). This trail is very close to a more advanced, rock climbing spot – Stoney Point. If you make your way to one of the formation’s peaks, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Santa Susana Mountains, Coyote Pass, Stoney Point & the entire San Fernando Valley.
- Ranch Trail & Rowan Trail (Heavenly Pond) at Franklin Canyon Park (1 mile) – Located near Beverly Hills, this trail is perfect if you’re looking for an easy stroll through nature. This is a popular trail that leads you on a loop around Upper Franklin Reservoir, which then can lead you directly to Heavenly Pond. This peaceful trail loop around the reservoir is shaded and full of turtles and ducks, perfect for young ones. The trail is well-maintained and if you’re feeling adventurous, feel free to explore the side trails that break off of the main trails.
- Bison Road at William S. Hart Park (1 mile) – located in Newhall, this one-mile round trip hike offers views of the park’s bison herd that was donated by Walt Disney. You can combine multiple trails together to do a full loop of the William S. Hart Park (take Fritz Road trail to Bison Road Trail) for an 1.8-mile hike. However, we usually park at SCV Senior Center which will lead you to the bottom of this hike (off Market St. & Newhall). After passing a gated entrance, you can walk directly up to the bison enclosure first thing. You can then proceed up the trail to the top of the mountain to get a view of the entire enclosure, as many of the bison will graze throughout the mountain side.
“LET’S GET OUTSIDE” HIKES: these hikes are easy to navigate but have a little umph to them, exercise is good for those little legs!
- Rock Pool Trail at Malibu Creek State Park (2 miles) – located within the Santa Monica Mountains, this is a 2 mile (out & back), heavily-trafficked trail alongside Malibu Creek leads to a swimming hole. We started our journey at the mail trailhead from the lower parking lot past the ranger station ($12 for the day or $3/hr).
Follow the trail down Crags road to the visitor center (trail clearly marked). The beginning portion of the trail is a well-maintained, wide trail through canopies of sycamores and oak trees with stunning views of the Santa Monica Mountains. As you near the visitor center, you can cross the bridge to stop by (open on Sat & Sun) or go right to continue to follow the sign to the Rock Pool. At this point the trail does get rockier, small scrambling necessary so keep your eyes on the path and “Use strong feet” as my eldest so kindly reminds me. Before you know it, BAM!!! A swimming hole. Feel free to dip your feet, picnic on the rocks or even swim on a warm day. You’ll see visitors scrambling the nearby rocks and even doing some light cliff jumping into the pool. This is a popular spot, but we always visit before the heat of day so we rarely run into any other hikers.
- Vanalden Cave Trail at Topanga State Park (1.55 miles) – The short hike to Vanalden Cave has a few unmarked junctions along the way, so read the directions before you go. Start going up Vanalden Trail, a dirt trail beginning from the south end of Vanalden Avenue in Tarzana. You will reach a split in the trail after 0.15 miles – TAKE A LEFT!!! Vanalden Trail also continues up the mountainside to the right, if you reach the dirt portion of Mulholland Rd you’ve gone too far, TURN BACK!
After the split, you’ll descend into an oak grove, there is another split at a large oak tree, about 0.05 miles from the main trail. A trail breaking off to the right heads to the top of Vanalden Cave. Straight past the oak tree, you can drop into a small ravine, go to the right and hike up to the mouth of Vanalden Cave. A steep path alongside the cave allows you to connect the upper and lower trails to explore all sides of Vanalden Cave. The trail to the top of the caves is very narrow, doable, but beware.
By either route, it is only a few hundred feet from the oak tree to Vanalden Cave. The mouth of the cave is shaped like an arch. Be sure to head inside, it may look dark from the outside but there are ample natural “skylights” that allow for light to come through the cave from above. SO COOL! You can choose to continue the hike up to the top of the cave and get back on the trail to do a full loop.
- Abalone Cove Trail at Abalone Cove Shoreline Park (1.1 miles) – located in Rancho Palos Verdes, there are TWO beaches, tide pools, bluff top viewing areas and tons of crisscrossing trails. The park is a State Ecological Preserve and taking protected animals and marine life from the park is PROHIBITED. The park has benches, picnic tables, restrooms with SPECTACULAR views of the ocean and on a clear day you can see Catalina Island. There is a paid lot for parking (first 30 minutes FREE, 30 minutes – two hours is $6.00, over 2 hours is $12)
We sometimes walk around the park for a bit to enjoy the views but mainly we go to visit the tide pools at Abalone Cove Beach. You can access the beach from the Abalone Cove Trail, the visible trailhead is a short walk from the parking lot. The trail is a 1.1 mile heavily trafficked, out & back trail. A great trail for all skill levels. A fairly easy trek down, but remember, what comes down, must come back up. There is a pretty decent incline on the trek back.
Be sure to look up the low tides on the tide charts before your visit and plan accordingly. You will want to visit during low tide in order to see as many sea creatures as possible. On our past visits we have seen hermit crabs, mussels, sea anemones, sea urchins, sea stars and a few sea slugs. SO MUCH FUN for kids. With the low water level, it is safe for little explorers to climb the rocks to observe and touch all the sea creatures gently.
“FOR THE ADVENTUROUS” HIKES: these hikes are for your toddlers that LOVE a challenge and are willing to put in the extra steps!
- Old Zoo Loop at Griffith Park (2.5 miles) – a 2.5 mile heavily-trafficked loop trail with an 383ft elevation gain. The trail is wide and well maintained (great for kids), with a great forest setting that provides the trail with shade. Not to mention – you can climb in abandoned animal enclosures, SO COOL! The trail is good for all skill levels.
You can park at the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round parking lot (large & free), it is the closest parking to the trailhead. Start at the Fern Canyon Trailhead and follow the Lower Old Zoo Trail to the Old Zoo Picnic Area. WE HIGHLY SUGGEST THIS ROUTE IF YOU ARE GOING WITH YOUNG KIDS. The incline is minimal, if you take the Upper Old Zoo Trail to the Old Zoo Picnic Area you are going to be HUFFING those littles up a mountain (great for exercise on your own though). Plus, if you take the Lower Old Zoo Trail, you get to the abandoned animal enclosures within 0.25 miles – ideal for keeping the interest of littles on a hike.
BEWARE – the enclosures are not in the best condition or “up to code”, this is what makes the hike cool and authentic. However, we still love showing our boys this unique experience and definitely would recommend it to anyone looking for a cool new spot to hike and share some wild Los Angeles history.
- LA96C NIKE Missile Control Site (2 miles) – During the Cold War this was a military reservation. LA96C is one of the 16 NIKE missile sites that protected Los Angeles from a feared attack by Soviet bombers. It was an active battery from 1956-1968 with radar searching the sky for enemy airplanes. New military technology made this site obsolete, and it now has been made into a park. Nature is reclaiming the military ruins!
You start the hike off of Mulholland Drive (took a left at the scenic overlook before Encino Hills Dr). It is approximately 2 miles round trip to the site and back down, with a decent incline to get those legs burning & heart-rate pumping. With our two kids it took us 25 minutes to reach the top, had a snack break and explored the site for 20 minutes then made the trek back to the car in 15 minutes! 60 minutes total!!
- Eaton Canyon Falls Trail at Eaton Canyon Natural Area & Nature Center (3.5 miles) – As a disclaimer, there are also smaller trails around the Nature Center, Junior Nature Trail, Fire Ecology Trail & Oak Terrace Trail, great for toddler paces. If your littles are feeling more adventurous the hike to the Eaton Canyon Falls is for you!!! Located in Pasadena, you can access Eaton Canyon Falls Trail from the Eaton Canyon Trailhead in the parking lot. The first 1.1 miles of the trail is an easy wide, dirt path along the dry Eaton Wash towards the San Gabriel Mountains. This portion of the hike has minimal shade, but once you reach the Eaton Canyon Falls Trailhead, the hike is changed to a single-track with some light rock scrambling portions in the shade for around 0.65 miles right to the foothills of the mountains. Depending on the season, there will be a few creek crossings that eventually lead you to a 40-foot waterfall with a small swimming hole. This is a great spot to have some trail snacks, splash in the water and explore the creek bed. Our boys loved it!!
- The Famous Rocks at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area (3 miles) – located in Agua Dulce, this 3-mile loop is perfect for little rock climbers and explorers. The Pacific Crest Trail goes right through this park and you can find the trail head right at the entrance gate. They do have parking on the inside of the park but we tend to park on the street and begin at the trailhead to make our exploration longer. You can follow this trail right up to “The Famous Rocks”. You’ll see a few smaller marked trails that have placards to explain the beautiful geology of this park. For an even easier access to “The Famous Rocks”, you can park directly at the base of them and proceed to scramble directly up the rocks. This park is so special and since it is a “natural area” exploration is allowed all around.
Today’s blog post is written by @hansensonthehustle. Are you hiking in Los Angeles any time soon? We hope you check out these unique toddler-friendly hikes in and near Los Angeles!